THE strains of Zadok the Priest won’t ring out around the SSE Hydro on Saturday night but in every other way visitors to the Finnieston Arena are guaranteed their first view of what Kalle Sauerland calls the Champions League of boxing. The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), the event which is the brainchild of the flamboyant German promoter, is coming to Scotland for the first time as Josh Taylor, the self-styled Tartan Tornado and Pride of Prestonpans, takes on Ryan Martin of the USA in this Super Lightweight quarter-final.
Now in its second season, the WBSS might just be the salvation of the sport, its beauty residing in a deceptively simple format which sweeps into a couple of weight classes each year, throwing cash from Comosa AG’s deep pockets at the best eight fighters they can persuade to battle it out for the Muhammad Ali trophy over the space of 12 months. While Taylor’s victory over Viktor Postol of Ukraine in June made him mandatory challenger for Jose Ramirez’s WBC title, Sauerland has the utmost respect for fighters such as Taylor who are prepared to take risks by testing themselves against the best. Those such as reigning WBC champion Ramirez, who declined a seven-figure cash offer to do likewise, are a different matter.
“I know Josh is so excited about this,” Sauerland said. “It is a pleasure to speak to him because he is a very proud man, a proud Scotsman, but most of all he is an athlete who isn’t scared to step up. And that for me is everything. Boxing isn’t a team sport, you can’t hide behind your team-mates, it is two gladiators in that square circle and that is it.
“First of all, financially I have no idea how they explain it to the fighters who don’t join, because the WBSS is by far in a way the most lucrative tournament in the weight class. Some people don’t want to step up but while boxing has always been about hiding behind the promoter, the manager, the TV network, this is neutral, it is not Team Sauerland doing this, or Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren. You put your talent in, the maximum of a three-fight deal, and you either come out with something great or your fighter gets found out. We have a great mix of young pretenders as it were and champs who are already there. And the fact Ramirez doesn’t want to join speaks volumes for me. He got a very big seven-figure offer, but we are not going to talk about who isn’t in it, we are going to talk about who is.”
On that subject, by the time you read this we will have found out whether Regis Prograis, the No 1 seed in this Super Lightweight class, has booked his semi-final place, with Sauerland talking from New Orleans where the weigh-in for last night’s quarter-final against Terry Flanagan was taking place. With Kiryl Relikh of Belarus, the WBA champion who was conquered by Ricky Burns only two years ago, having outpointed Eduard Troyanovsky to book his semi-final place, the victor of Taylor and Martin will meet whoever is left holding the IBF world title after Sweden’s Anthony Yigit takes on Ivan Baranchyk in the other last four contest.
“It is a first for the World Boxing Super Series to put on a show in Glasgow but it is also a first for Glasgow to see the kind of show that we put on,” he said. “It’s always a great occasion when the best fight the best and that is what we will get next week. This is going to be my first boxing show in Scotland but I know the Scots make a lot of noise.
“So often in boxing there are spectacular set-ups but without the sporting backdrop to match. I honestly believe this is one of the biggest bills Scotland has seen for many years and Josh is going to top that bill. There is a lot of hype about Josh Taylor on both sides of the Atlantic and I’m very excited to see what the hype is all about. The way people are talking up Josh Taylor on this side of the pond they are talking up Prograis on the other side of the pond and we mustn’t forget Baranchuk and Relikh.”
Ignoring the merits of Martin – who has an unbeaten 22 wins with 12 by way of knock-out – would also be foolhardy.
“Abel Sanchez doesn’t train fighters that he doesn’t think can win,” Sauerland said. “It is difficult to say who is favourite because we don’t know too much about them at this level. I know Josh has had some spectacular performances, but this is step up time, this is Champions League now. The World Boxing Super Series is the Champions League of boxing.
“A lot of people thought we wouldn’t be able to do it but we are in our second season now and it is good fun. Look at Oleksandr Usyk [last year’s cruiserweight Ali trophy winner and unified champion], everybody knew he was a talented guy but it would have taken him four of five years to get to the level he is at now. Instead, he is there in a year, because he put his balls on the line. Usyk is now boxing in a UK pay per view, that shows how high his level is now. It just proves who ever wins the tournament will always improve their standing in the weight class. Because they have beaten the best there is in their weight class in the space of 12 months.”
Need to know
World Boxing Super Series season Two – Super-Lightweight:
Regis Prograis (United States) vs. Terry Flanagan (England)
WBC Diamond Title
Josh Taylor (Scotland) vs. Ryan Martin (United States)
WBC Silver Title
Kiryl Relikh (Belarus) vs. Eduard Troyanovsky (Russia) – Relikh W UD12
WBA World Championship
Ivan Baranchyk (Belarus) vs. Anthony Yigit (Sweden)
IBF World Championship
November 3rd, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Scotland – Ali Trophy Quarter-Finals
Ryan Burnett (Northern Ireland) vs Nonito Donaire (Philippines)
WBA ‘Unified’ Bantamweight Championship
Josh Taylor (Scotland) vs Ryan Martin (United States)
WBC Super-Lightweight Silver Title
TICKETS: From £35 (plus fees) here: thessehydro.com
Source : HeraldScotland